I just completed a week as a presenter at the remarkable destination spa Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Baja California. Apart from the obvious benefits of early morning hikes up the mountain, spectacular healthy cuisine, beautiful surroundings, wonderful guests and the overall great vibe of the place, it was a very gratifying week in terms of the teaching. I merged content from my workshops The Good Eye and The Zen of Seeing. As it’s a weekly program focusing on well being—physical and mental—the big tagline was “Use your iphone to tune in rather than tune out.”
My students ranged from experienced professional photographers to those having little or no experience, but wanting to improve their photographic eye shooting with their iphones. It was a challenging format to work with—only four presentations each lasting forty five minutes, as opposed to the standard weeklong workshop offering opportunities for assignments, exercises and critiques. In response to my usual performance anxiety before teaching any workshop, my friends were thinking I was nuts, as it was only a total of 3 hours to prepare for as opposed to 30.
It’s common knowledge in creative communities that limitations often create more infinite possibilities—hence my challenge. And then there was the issue of how to really embed any significant learning so as to add value in such a small amount of time—how to ignite the spark of refreshed ‘seeing’? How to shift perspectives? It was a great exercise with an unexpected result. I learned there is much to be said for having to hone communication of certain aspects of visual discernment and concepts about aesthetics down to their essence—a real back-to-basics approach...that still resonates with more experienced photographers. What’s most important in the dialogue; what to leave in, what to take out?
Somehow, by honing in on the most quintessential aspects of seeing, beauty, and photographic vision; a more universal language emerged, bridging all experience levels in the group. We weren’t just talking about how to take a great photograph, we were re-learning how to see, how to create great imagery by taking ‘subject’ and ‘outcome’ out of the equation and focusing more on the process of SEEING itself. Much of the time we weren’t talking about photography at all; rather, how the mind works in relation to seeing, and how it can be such an enlivening and expanding practice to educate our eye in this way; to see beauty everywhere and in everything—very often in the form of abstraction. It’s about re-framing our vision so as to open up to endless possibilities in front of us always, but often overlooked—to see the ART in everything around us, all the time. There was tremendous synergy with other presenters who were speaking about managing stress in our lives and mindfulness practices--the need to re-frame our thinking.
The shorter time frame was a wonderful opportunity to see a beautiful structure emerge after years of pondering the best way to combine these ideas. Ironically, through the distillation process of the two workshops, normally both week long, we went deeper into the connections between the quality our our seeing and how it affects our day to day lives. The results were palpable.
A big Thank You and shout out to all my co-conspirators, who apart from making some serious strides in their photography, made it a very enlivening….and eye opening week:) EW